The Bones of Avalon, the first book in this series and the first of any by Phil Rickman that I had read, was a cracking historical mystery with more than a hint of the supernatural about it, as Queen Elizabeth's astrologer and adviser on the occult, Dr John Dee, travelled to Glastonbury to try and locate the bones of King Arthur. That book, in turn, led me to Rickman's 'Merrily Watkins' series, similarly creepy mysteries only set in the present day.
I think the Amazon blurb says more than enough about the plot of this book without me going into any further detail. It seemed, to me, to be an appropriate time to read it, having just read another book (Traitor by Rory Clements) in which Dee featured heavily. What I have really enjoyed about Rickman's two Dee books is the way in which true events are woven so seamlessly into his stories. Just take Robert Dudley, in this case. Queen Elizabeth's supposed one true love but married to Amy Robsart, who had to remain away from court because of the Queen's dislike for her, and went a year without seeing her husband, she died from a fall down a short flight of stairs, leaving her husband free to marry Elizabeth. But was it an accident, or did he arrange her murder? The subsequent scandal is entwined brilliantly with this story, as is the history of the Battle of Brynglas, and the alleged rising of the dead from grounds around that hill, a mystery brought about by the presence of a young woman and her handicapped brother who can divine where the bones are buried.
As with all of his books that I've read so far, Rickman seems to have an innate ability to create an atmosphere of forboding in his tales. Whilst they are rarely scary, they never fail to be creepy, and he ties together very well all the various plot threads as the story reaches its climax. Rickman's style is sometimes deliberately obtuse, meaning that you have to read carefully at times to pick up on everything he is trying to convey. I don't think this is bad writing, it's a stylistic choice, and his language is chosen carefully to pass on a sense of the period and the way people may have spoken then. Many of his stories focus on ignorance and intolerance towards others' beliefs, and this is no different. It's a cracking read.